Authorities in the Tennessee town of Greenbrier are currently investigating the deaths of two teenagers who died after allegedly consuming a lethal mixture of Mountain Dew and racing fuel, known to some by the street name of “Dewshine.” Logan Stephenson, age 16, was found unresponsive in his home last Thursday, according to a report by People Magazine. His classmate, J.D. Byram, died Monday night at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Two other students have admitted to experimenting with the mixture, but did not suffer any ill effects.
Donna Seger, medical director for the Tennessee Poison Control Center, spoke to Nashville-based television station WSMV regarding the poisoning deaths.
“I feel quite certain these people did not understand the potential lethality of this ingestion,” Seger advised. “It’s a mixture of Mountain Dew and then methanol in racing fuel,” she said. “There’s a little bit of methanol in the alcohol you drink, and that’s said to cause the hangover. To drink straight methanol is really a recipe for disaster … It’s affecting things on the cellular level.”
According to Australia-based news outlet ABC, methanol is closely related to ethanol, the type of alcohol found in many commercially produced alcoholic beverages, but it is far more toxic. It commonly manifests in homemade, “bootleg” alcoholic beverages, and can lead to serious health issues. In 2012, a mass poisoning occurred in the Czech Republic as the result of methanol-tainted liquor produced at home. The website LiveScience reported that dozens of others ended up in critical condition after ingesting the poison spirits.
Methanol is highly flammable and is commercially used in transportation fuels, wastewater treatment, and the generation of electricity. The Methanol Institute says that the compound is used in hundreds of chemicals to produce thousands of products.
A mere two to eight ounces of methanol can cause the death of a typical adult. Those who survive methanol poisoning might experience significant visual impairment or even blindness, as some of the chemical changes that result in methanol poisoning can affect the ocular nerve.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning may also include blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures, according to a report by Knoxville’s WBIR.
It is worth noting that Mountain Dew’s parent company, PepsiCo, actually produces a beverage called “Dew Shine” that does not contain alcohol and is sold in stores around the United States. The limited edition product was launched in 2015 as a “craft soda” and was described by the National Association of Convenience Stores as a clear citrus-flavored soda made with real sugar. A spokesperson with Mountain Dew added that the drink was “inspired by the brand’s roots in the backwoods of Tennessee.”
Indeed, Mountain Dew was originally created as a “mixer” to complement hard liquors in the early 1940s. The drink was purchased by Pepsi in 1964 and was distributed on a much larger scale as a standalone beverage. It is, of course, not the only “soft drink” to be used as a mixer with alcohol, as rum and Coke has enjoyed a lengthy history as a bar standard. More recently, people have taken to mixing vodka with caffeinated Red Bull to produce a popular club drink.
It is not known how common experimentation with the potentially deadly mix of Mountain Dew and racing fuel is, but authorities in the Greenbrier, Tennessee, area are not aware of any other cases of sickness related to consumption of the street version of “Dewshine” at present.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]